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Ways to spot fake news and misinformation amid the infodemic: UW professor

Society is facing its first global pandemic of the digital age, and with it comes a deluge of misinformation
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COVID-19 is the first global pandemic of the digital age, and we are facing an 'infodemic' alongside it. A mixture of real and fake news around the coronavirus is being shared and spread across the web, making it difficult for the average person to keep up with the truth.

On Friday, Professor Shana MacDonald, Dept. of Communication Arts, University of Waterloo appeared on the Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS to talk about some of the things we can do about fake news and misinformation.

"The onus needs to be not just on us. That's asking a lot of the public," she said. "The onus needs to be on the tech giants, the governments, the news organizations. They must do their part to mobilize their resources against the spread of information and to amplify fact-checking practices."

She specifically points to tech giants like Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter, where the spread of misinformation is common and can be harmful. The coronavirus has led to many questionable claims around unproven DIY remedies, but have been spread far by social media. Conspiracy theories, racism and xenophobia have been spread along these lines as well.

MacDonald outlined some basic steps to make sense of some questionable information that might come your way.

  • Consider where claims are coming from.
  • Consider the source.
  • Is it based on evidence? Or is it opinion?
  • Is it from a reputable news outlet?
  • Look to government channels and health organizations and what they have to say.

She said it is important to keep your emotions at bay when fact-checking.

"The Internet and social media platforms want us to be engaged emotionally, cause that's what keeps us clicking, and sharing, and reading," she said. If it sounds like clickbait, there's a good chance it is.

Fact-checking has become more prominent in recent time, with organizations, non-profits and tools dedicated to debunking.

Google has recently invested $6.5 million towards fact-checking efforts, and have even set up their own fact-checking tool that you can use.

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